Proceedings of The Physiological Society

University of Oxford (2011) Proc Physiol Soc 23, PC5

Poster Communications

Developing skills for the future: An alternative team-based final year biosciences enterprise project

T. Speake1, M. Henery2, M. Fostier1

1. Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom. 2. Manchester Enterprise Centre, The University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom.

In response to increasing pressure on traditional ‘wet’ laboratory projects from rising student numbers, we introduced the Life Sciences Enterprise Project (LSEP) in 2006 as an alternative project option. Working in teams of 6, students use research knowledge outputs from life sciences to produce a business plan for a real product or service. In addition to developing commercial awareness, these students also develop a wide range of transferable skills to enhance employability. In semester 1, students select a project ‘theme’, e.g. brain development; and an ‘avenue’, e.g. the role of folate in neural development. With supervisor support, each student produces a literature review focusing on the scientific content of their avenue. With a deeper understanding of their field, students develop an idea for a product or service relating to their research. Assessment of the feasibility of their idea is then presented to the year group in a poster event attended by entrepreneurial partners. Each team decides which idea has the greatest potential for successful commercialisation and will form the basis of the team business plan in the following semester. In semester 1, workshops provide an overview of the processes underpinning the entrepreneurial journey from an initial idea to a successful venture and also of the skills required for effective team working and project management. The students have access to business advisors in semester 2, but in essence the project is driven by the students in an enquiry-based learning (EBL) approach. The project culminates in our ‘Lion’s Lair’ event where students pitch their idea to a panel of business professionals. One of our key aims was for students to develop a wide range of transferable skills to enhance employability. We used the 5-level Likert scale to assess student’s perception of the skills developed or acquired during LSEP. Values are presented as mean±S.D; n=36. Of particular note, students agreed that LSEP had helped them to develop problem-solving skills (4.3±0.7), decision-making skills (4.4±0.7), formal oral communication skills (4.7±0.5) and the confidence to use their own initiative (4.3±0.6). Teamwork is a prominent feature of this project, comprising 70% of the final mark. Students agreed that their team building skills had also improved (4.7±0.5). Student comments included: “it has allowed me to develop many existing transferable skills as well as acquiring new valuable skills”; “I was able to use LSEP as evidence at interview as these are the competencies expected by employers”. This project approach enables our students to apply their subject-specific knowledge in an applied way to an authentic problem and develop a wide range of transferable skills in preparation for employment.

Where applicable, experiments conform with Society ethical requirements